Weekend Improvement Plan?

September 20, 2022

I mentioned this past weekend was meh; this is because we attempted to have a more relaxing weekend at home.

It did not work.

“Hanging out at home” for longer than a couple of hours does not seem to be an achievable goal in our house, unfortunately. (YET, anyway. I am determined. If I fixed bedtime, isn’t anything possible!?!?)

To clarify, there was relative peace while they enjoyed screen time but the aftermath was beyond annoying. This phenomenon is observable far more in the younger two; Annabel seems to be able to handle switching from her iPad to reality fairly well but the others are not there yet. For reference, A is 10, C is 8 (and a half), and G is 4.75 (lol, but I feel like 4 is inaccurate and she is not yet ‘almost 5’).

So, we will be taking a(nother) screen break. The thing is: I am old and tired and not willing to be cruise director all weekend long. I am not going to hover over them with wholesome craft ideas (that inevitably I will have to clean up). I feel like they should be able to find things to do. Interestingly this also seems to be something Annabel is generally capable of, but not the other two. Did I break them with screen time during their formative years (in G’s case at least, I can blame COVID)? Or are they just less mature?


CHORES. I probably also need to get on the chore bandwagon. Currently they will clean up when trying to meet some kind of goal (ie, get screens or a piece of chocolate . . .) but do not contribute to household operations in any other meaningful way.

MORE READING. For A&C, I will get some more books especially graphic novels from the library because that is the one thing they will do fairly happily without screens. But G can’t read yet (well, she can read 3 letter words but you know what I mean). I need to get some audiobooks but the format is tricky — I know some libraries seem to have book/audio contraptions but I don’t think ours does. Maybe I’ll download EPIC books – I’ve heard good things about that?

QUIET TIME I was thinking about having them practice doing shorter stints of ‘quiet time’ in their rooms with some kind of reward? They tend to avoid EVER being alone, especially the younger two, and yet there is ALWAYS fighting (C often playing with G juuuuuuust to the point of antagonizing her, in a sort-of playful way, but then there is crying and screaming and ugh). Asking them to hang out separately in their rooms always goes over like it’s some kind of punishment even when it’s not.

Games sound like a great idea but are very tough with all 3 because . . . well, G is not ready and it makes the whole experience feel futile and irritating.

We have done screen free months before and it has helped. I would like them to be able to enjoy screens for reasonable periods but not act entirely insane for hours afterwards, and I would like to be able to enjoy an occasional day at home. Are these pipe dreams?

I’m sure in 5 years this problem will be replaced by others . . . but this is our biggest struggle right now.

As always, tips welcome!!

(Though this weekend I plan on getting them out of the house both days.)

There were still happy moments:

pancakes + peaches (my lovely friend sent us a box from Frog Hollow Farm and we put the contents to good use!)
ice skating as it was over 90F outside


  • Reply Coree September 20, 2022 at 6:23 am

    I only have 1 so no advice on the siblign dynamic but I have made quiet time stick in our house (just turned 5). On days we are home in the afternoon, rest time is from about 2:30-3:30, in his room, with an audiobook on. Crucially, the screentime that follows (we only do screentime on weekend afternoons) is contingent on a “good” rest. We worked up to the hour and sometimes if he’s engrossed in a project, I’ll sneak a bit longer on the audiobook sleeptimer.

    Audiobooks – we use an old ipad connected to audible, but you could use the Libby app. We also have CD player – (I posted a CD player wanted ad on freecycle b/c I wasn’t spending real money on one in 2022 and got multiple offers). You can often check out audiobook CDs from the library.

    My son wasn’t overly into Epic, think he’d rather have me read to him. But he loves audiobooks for both rest and bedtime.

  • Reply lawandcreative September 20, 2022 at 6:45 am

    My situation is slightly different as my daughter is older (13) but has SEN.

    Ever since she was a baby, though, we have just not spent whole days at home. That’s probably something I struggled with doing in the early days (the days seemed sooooooo long), and now my daughter has picked it up from me.

    When we are at home, though, I find the time goes best if I have planned activities or even just left options out. She has a new Schleich farm house and that has lived on the kitchen table for a week so it’s a go to activity.

    I can’t leave her unsupervised so we are always in the same room; I do my planner and she does hers (she has her own Happy Planner that she likes to sticker), we have TV shows we both enjoy, she has some iPad time and I read… etc.

    Also, the garden is a good safe place for us and we recently gave in and got a mud kitchen custom made for her height. She is loving pottering out there and as long as I can keep an eye on her and accept she will come in covered in mud, that’s a pretty good way of spending an hour.

    But, yes, every day we get out and do something, whether it be a local animal place, a drive in the car, or running errands.

  • Reply Grateful Kae September 20, 2022 at 6:46 am

    Won’t claim to be an expert or anything, but a few things we did: 1) as soon as anyone dropped nap time, quiet time was immediately implemented in its place. Mostly reading, but also allowed puzzles, quiet Lego building, drawing, etc. 2) They’ve had to do chores on weekends since very young. This can take up a good chunk of time! We had chore charts with age appropriate chores. They (especially 8 and 10) are capable of doing a lot by this age. 3) When they had big chunks of free time to fill, we would make an “idea list” together first. Example- “build a fort. play chess. Do your chemistry set. Play hide and seek. Make a chalk scooter maze on driveway. Build something with your magnatiles. Play a board game. Etc” I always made sure they were things they could do by themselves! So I sort of played cruise director but only for a few minutes while brainstorming the list. Sometimes I would give them a list of things they HAD to do in the afternoon, like x number of workbook pages, read, Play outside x 30 minutes, do soccer juggles for 15 minutes, etc. 4) We utilized some higher quality Tv time mixed in with the Xbox/iPad (in addition to). There are tons of amazing Nat Geo shows on Disney+.. though mine were little before the era of Disney+! But on cable they loved the shows about veterinarians caring for wild animals and interesting things like that, geared for kids. (They loved the one with Dr K). They learned stuff and kept them occupied! Sometimes I would say they could watch TV but ONLY an educational show. 5) not sure if a complete break from screens is what you really want! If they need to learn to balance them appropriately, taking them completely away might just make it harder down the road… they won’t get to keep practicing this moderation! And the moderation is going to be crucial as they get older, get phones, etc. That stage will be here before you know it. Maybe implementing some other ideas but still keeping some screen time, because then you can always take it away (a day at a time, etc, as needed). There is no greater “punishment”, lol! 6) What about doing a couple or few SHORTER stretches on the screens? Maybe 3+ hours at a time is too long all at once. What about like, one shorter block in the morning if they’ve read or whatever first, and then another later, to look forward to in the afternoon/evening? * disclaimer on all that I only have 2, and they are 15 months apart. So practically like twins in age, ha. Never had the big age gap to contend with.

    • Reply Sophie September 21, 2022 at 1:34 am

      Love all these ideas, I have similar issues with weekends so these ideas are very helpful. 🙂

  • Reply Gillian September 20, 2022 at 6:53 am

    So as the loving mother of 3 boys, I would say my daughter was better at playing on her own at a younger age. We tend to have a lot of unstructured time on the weekends (while we are driving kids places, working, etc.) and some of my kids have done better with this than others. My youngest who is 6.5 and in first grade is TERRIBLE at entertaining himself. Still we enforce quiet time for all from 1-3 pm on weekends for anyone in the house. In my experience playdates and time outside can be very helpful to prepare for quiet time. Also having every building toy ever made helps with independent play…Legos, blocks, magnetiles still keep my 6, 9 and almost 12 yo busy and sometimes the 15 yo gets in on the building too.

    • Reply Gillian September 20, 2022 at 6:58 am

      Oh, we do have some screen time. My younger kids earn up to 70 minutes per week by doing daily chores which they can use at certain times on Saturday and Sunday afternoons. When they redeem screen time they are responsible for setting a timer and if they don’t get off when the timer goes off they lose 10 minutes of screen time. They can also share screen time with a sibling. If they combine their minutes they could even watch a movie. But because they each only have 70 minutes a week they won’t be on screen for more than 140 minutes over the course of a weekend.

    • Reply Bridget September 22, 2022 at 8:39 am

      My kids are almost exactly the same ages as yours, and I work from home and homeschool and I haven’t been able to find a nanny for 6 weeks, so I want to share what we have figured out. I started making a checklist of things I expected my bigs to do each day– the lists change daily but include some mixup of school, chores (honestly not many), fun, things they have said they want to do daily (e.g. my 10 year old wants to write a book, my 7 year old wants to get better at piano and keep a journal) and playing with/reading to little brother. Declaring quiet time doesn’t work for us, but when there is a fight and I can say “is your checklist done?” , it is an easy redirect. And when they don’t want to do the checklist, they carefully avoid me by staying in their rooms.

  • Reply Shelly September 20, 2022 at 7:40 am

    OMG. The fighting with board games. I had wanted to do a Friday games night where we hang out together as a family and play a game of some kind. Well my son (12) targets my daughter (turning 10) and there are tears. Or my daughter was winning at a game that had more luck of the cards being dealt and then my son would stomp away upset. To be fair this was over the last few years (I’ve tried a few times) but haven given up on the memory making through that avenue.

    I’m here to say you didn’t break them with screen time. With my youngest, I’ve also explained to her that when she gets off of a screen it takes a few minutes for her brain to “adjust” and to allow for the “uncomfortable” feeling. It’s ok to sit with that or experience that for a few minutes and then it’s easier for her to see possibilities. Just making her aware of that transition has helped.

    Already I can see the tips coming through, and you will have some good ideas to work with.
    I do get them to be off screen and do their own thing – my son likes to read so he does that and my daughter struggles more (says no to any suggestion I make) and then will settle into drawing or playing with legos on her own. She is way more social and I also allow her to go find a friend down the street to play with if someone is free.

    I also need to plan out more chores. Right now, they are required to empty lunch kits after school, put dishes in dishwasher. And then I get them to clean their rooms, or help with a chore or two but not a fully regular routine for that.
    Now I’m on to reading more of the great ideas here!

  • Reply Sarah September 20, 2022 at 7:45 am

    Two kids’ audiobook brands our library carries are Vox books and Wonderbooks, both of which are actual books with recordings that read to the kids. My 5 year old enjoys these. I also wouldn’t discount graphic novels for G. My kiddo loves them and will spend 30-60 minutes paging through silently, even though she also is only reading 3 letter words right now.

    • Reply Sam September 20, 2022 at 9:00 am

      Yes! My 3 year old is in the process of dropping naps and vox books have helped a lot. Drawing and magnatiles and play dough have also been good quiet time activities on the days she doesn’t nap. I’ve thought about buying a yoto player for audiobooks and music for her since we don’t have an ipad and I’d like her to be able to navigate it without asking for help or having access to other apps/shows.

  • Reply Lisa of Lisa’s Yarns September 20, 2022 at 8:03 am

    Weekends are hard! And you are still in your hot season so it’s probably harder to be out and about. The less we are home, the better our weekends go, especially with a toddler who has a super short attention span. We have a good rhythm to our weekends now but it will need to change when cold weather arrives. Sat am is library + gymnastics, lunch, then quiet time. Our 4yo only gets iPad time during quiet time in his room. He only has access to ABC mouse and PBS kids so I feel ok about the time he spends on his iPad. Then we only have to fill the afternoon and evening. Sunday mornings we go to a farmers market for donuts (for the boys) and then to the adjacent park, then home for lunch and quiet time. I like that our weekend mornings are formulaic. But it works for my kids at the ages they are. They love the toys at the library and both love parks. I use their quiet time to workout or rest. That is kind of the only downtime I get so the weekends deplete me since the toddler requires constant surveillance. I’ve seen some parents reading a newspaper or book at the park – I look forward to a time when that is possible!! It feels far off, though.

    • Reply Coree September 20, 2022 at 9:39 am

      Schools get out at 12 here on Friday and it seems like half the kids head for the playpark adjacent to the school. My son is finally running off without me, and I weirdly have a mental block about pulling out a book so I’ve mostly been doing work email on my phone. But a book would be nicer.

      • Reply Sarah Hart-Unger September 20, 2022 at 10:01 am

        It’s sooo hot and stormy and generally unpleasant outside here still and it will be probably until Nov. it is much easier to want to go outside when it’s feb!

        • Reply Lisa of Lisa’s Yarns September 20, 2022 at 10:13 am

          I’ll be in your shoes comes December! I am brain storming indoor activities, like indoor playgrounds, to replace the Sunday am farmer’s market/park combo. We can sled and go for walks in the winter but it’s often not possible due to the cold, or we can only be out for 45 minutes, not 2 hours. The weather really makes things challenging in many parts of the country! I hope you find a solution that works. There are so many good ideas in the comments!

  • Reply Robin Sumner September 20, 2022 at 8:37 am

    Check out Tonies for G. It’s a CD type thing but the CDs are little toys figures that okay music or books. Very easy to use and gives them some autonomy.

  • Reply KW September 20, 2022 at 8:41 am

    I have 3 kids, ages 7, 7 (twins) and 6. Independent play skills are definitely a priority here. I love this article – Also, I will sometimes announce what I am doing, then kids can pick to follow me around/help me,or go play. Usually they lose interest and play after a while. But, I’m firm about my tasks: “I’ll be paying bills, you can sit next to me and color.” Or “I’ll be doing dishes, you can pick the music we listen to during dishes.”

  • Reply KGC September 20, 2022 at 8:47 am

    I also struggle to be stuck at home with kids all day (mine are 3.5 and 6.5 – both boys) because – as you say – it is NOT relaxing. My solution is to just not be stuck at home all day – ha! Even if we don’t have a scheduled activity, we do try to get outside and play with the neighbors, ride bikes, take a walk, etc. That being said, here are some things that work for us on the weekends:
    1) mine get some limited screen time right after they wake up and around breakfast time. I use this to get myself ready for the day and do anything around the house that I want to just bang out and get done.
    2) after breakfast, they know that we can’t do any ‘fun activity’ (outside the house) for the day until chores are done – I usually write a list on the white board and we try to tackle them in the morning. Their chores usually include things like making beds (my older kiddo and me), putting away laundry (I separate but they fold their own; this does require help for my little guy…though he’s surprisingly good at it!), emptying the dishwasher, and sometimes running the vacuum or tidying a specific area/room. I personally have VERY STRONG feelings about kids helping with chores and I think that mine generally do pretty well…I frame it as ‘here is how we all contribute to the house’ and it also helps to make it a competition – who can finish their list first? who can pick up the most magnatiles?
    3) I usually tell them that they don’t have to do everything at once, but that we can’t do XYZ afternoon activity (or screens) until chores are done. This tends to work well.
    4) Mine will actually play quite well independently for a long time with building stuff – legos, magnatiles, matchbox car tracks, etc…though we are increasingly running into fighting over stuff. My general attitude is to either set a timer and make them take turns OR remove them from the activity (which can be motivating for them to work it out so they get to keep playing).
    5) Busy Toddler has a good list of activities that require minimal setup/cleanup. A big hit with us recently is ‘paint the toys’…where we literally dragged out plastic toys and washable paint and set them free in the driveway to paint their stuff. I put the paint out on disposable plates that I just tossed when they were done and then they used the hose to spray things off. I kid you not, this was a 2 hour activity that only took me 5-10 minutes of total setup and cleanup. But this stuff might feel too ‘cruise director’ for you.
    6) I take them with me to run errands…they don’t do this often, so it often ends up being a novelty and not terrible for all of us AND it gets us out of the house. Usually this is stuff like Target or grocery pickup, dropping an amazon return at the UPS store, running into the mall for something quick…it also goes well if I promise a stop for a cookie or donut or something.

    Also – not sure if this will help, but I’m reading 123 Magic and I like their tactics to shut down whining/fighting/etc. That being said, we’re in a phase of my little guy hitting and kicking me during meltdowns so clearly I still don’t have it all figured out with this parenting thing…

  • Reply gwinne September 20, 2022 at 9:04 am

    Yeah, weekends can be rough. And navigating screen time.

    My situation is radically different in terms of kid ages, so take all this with a grain of salt. I thought about when Tiny Boy was C’s age (pre-pandemic) and LG at that age 8-10 range, when I would have had an infant/toddler. Tiny Boy has an OBSCENE amount of screen time (on weekends up to 4 hrs/day, which, yes, is a pandemic habit that needs to be dealt with). But what he does/did that your kids don’t seem to do is have independent playdates on the regular (with both my kids this started in first grade). Over the course of a weekend, he has independent time, family time, and friend time. He had really just started doing that when the pandemic happened, and it’s taken a while to get the routine back. Just a thought.

    • Reply Sarah Hart-Unger September 20, 2022 at 9:24 am

      I can barely convince A to go to a drop off birthday party and she’s 10. The culture here is very helicopter-y too. (Aside from camp!)

      • Reply gwinne September 20, 2022 at 9:41 am

        Interesting… Tiny Boy has a friend whose parents also work at the university. There are days the two kids are together for four hours at a stretch, either their house or ours. They aren’t unsupervised or free ranging it but they’re doing their own thing without (for the most part!) parental intervention. I wish that for you!

      • Reply Coree September 20, 2022 at 9:43 am

        That’s intense! I did always wonder why you were headed to birthday parties. We’re in the first year of school and dropoff parties are starting to become a thing. We thought people might drop off for T’s and instead we had 16 children and 20 adults in our 1000 square foot house…but it was chaotic and fun.

        Dropoff playdates are definitely a thing, especially for close friends. I wonder if you invited another kid over, this might help the dynamic?

      • Reply KGCx September 20, 2022 at 9:51 am

        See if you can work on changing the culture =) Drop-off playdates are a GAME CHANGER. For us, this usually involves a neighbor coming over and then the kids disappear into the basement for 2 hours and it is magical. Sometimes my older one will go to a neighbor’s house, though I actually prefer that everyone come to us. Could you start by inviting one friend over and make it clear that it’s a drop-off? Can you make this a thing in your social circle?!!?

        • Reply Sarah Hart-Unger September 20, 2022 at 10:06 am

          We had a drop off friend for A a couple weekends ago. So that was good! Harder to ask people to take your kids …

          • KGC September 20, 2022 at 10:15 am

            Yes, true. But when A’s friend came over, did C and G also play with them? Because that still accomplishes the same thing! (though I realize a pair of 10 yo girls may not be interested in the younger kids). I find that when we have a friend over for my older one, the younger one just joins them downstairs and it works out fine. Or have a friend over for C and maybe A and G will figure it out? I feel like you can make this work!!! Might just take some trial and error =)

          • gwinne September 20, 2022 at 10:35 am

            Sarah, my way of handling this is a text that says something like “Tiny Boy is wondering if X can play this weekend. Happy to host or send him your way!” Works out about 50/50. He is more actively requesting playdates in advance now, which is great.

          • Sarah Hart-Unger September 20, 2022 at 10:41 am

            Ooh I like that wording. C has been a bit of a challenge in this regard but it’s worth working on.

      • Reply Gillian September 20, 2022 at 10:22 am

        That is killer! We live in a very free range town. It is part of the culture here though. Even school dismisses kids out into the world starting in 3rd grade and 7th graders can walk off campus to lunch. It is fully expected that playdates are drop-off from Pre-k onward. My 9 yo is friends with a kid just around the corner and they will go back and forth spontaneously and and independently all the time. My kids can also “walk into town” alone from an early age and go the bakery, drug store or ice cream shop. It’s hard to fight a community culture but maybe starting with a few close friends that live in the neighborhood. They may be really looking for a change in this way too!

  • Reply Elizabeth September 20, 2022 at 9:04 am

    Just here in solidarity. My two are 7.5 (girl) and just turned 6 (boy). They are monsters after extended screen time (sometimes we allow said screen time anyway but nearly always regret it). My daughter will read for hours happily but son is in K and learning but not yet an independent reader. And despite my desire to sometimes stay in on the weekend, we have found it just doesn’t work. They need to get out of the house or there will be loud fighting when the tv is off. It is maddening.

    I keep thinking when the younger can read maybe that will solve things, but I am now also thinking adding weekly chores to the mix for weekend responsibilities before earning screen time could be great. Otherwise no ideas. Just solidarity and sympathy!

  • Reply AwayEmily September 20, 2022 at 9:14 am

    I think there’s a middle ground between sending kids off on their own to play and cruise directing — I find my kids (6 and 4, plus a baby who can’t yet play) do well with some “starter” ideas. Like, I get out a puzzle and sit with them while they do the first few pieces. Or yesterday, I said “you two can go play outside, but whatever you do, DON’T spy on me through the kitchen windows while I clean the kitchen.” That bought me a good 45 minutes. I find that I can reduce squabbling if I am proactive — if they are the a mode of being snippy to each other, there’s just no way that they will play together and I don’t even bother trying. In that case I usually send the 6yo to her room and turn on an audiobook (we do Libby via the Sonos speaker in her room) and tell the 4yo to do art. Usually after 20 minutes or so they have had enough alone time that they are excited to play together again.

    Also, FWIW, we only allow screens on the actual TV, not on ipads. I’m sure kids differ but I’ve noticed that the few times they’ve used ipads (we don’t have one but their grandmother does and she employs it liberally) they are in ROUGH shape when we pull them off it, but they are generally fine with detaching from the TV.

    • Reply KGC September 20, 2022 at 9:36 am

      Chiming in to say that I agree with the TV vs. iPad thing. For some reason, TV isn’t quite as triggering and I’m not sure why. If they are doing screens, I much prefer that they are on TV for this reason. Maybe kid-dependent, but I’ve noticed the same as @awayemily!

      • Reply Coree September 20, 2022 at 9:46 am

        Same here as well! T will turn the TV off but struggled to disenage with the ipad. Perfect for planes though, we once had a 3.5 hour flight where all he said was “Can I have some more snacks please!” and “TUNA!” in response to Octonauts. I read half a book.

  • Reply Lydia September 20, 2022 at 9:17 am

    Just here to say that the personality differences are real and may or may not have anything to do with age or demographic. My 5 year old is, and always has been, incapable of playing solo without an audience. Even on the soccer field for his first game last week he spent the whole game jogging the field loosely while recounting his life’s story to the ref/coach. Getting him to play independently has been a lifelong failing battle. He has other strengths, haha. My 2.5 year old, also a boy and raised in the same home, will disappear for an hour at a time before I ever realize he is gone and he is always contentedly playing in age-appropriate and non-destructive ways. He has other personality challenges. Both are intelligent “good kids.” So it may just be the way these ones came!

  • Reply Chantal September 20, 2022 at 9:24 am

    Outdoor play equipment??? I know your in a hot area but seriously just get a trampoline 🙂 my kids love it and it’s awesome putting a sprinkler under it while jumping!
    You could relax nearby reading 😜

    Your house looks big enough to put an exercise trampoline inside 😂

    • Reply Melissa September 23, 2022 at 2:37 am

      This! And if it’s hot spray them with the hose. I have 3 all two years apart and I’d usually send them outside when they couldn’t play inside properly. We had cubby, clam sheep with sand and other things to play with. They’d dress up, ride trikes and make mud pies. We also had undercover area to draw and paint etc.

  • Reply Amy September 20, 2022 at 9:32 am

    Lots of good advice here — just chiming in with my own .02 —

    Everyone is saying that quiet time is a must. I NEVER had success with enforcing a dedicated Quiet Time In Your Room because it felt so punitive to my oldest. He stopped napping very young (2.5) and that was everyone’s go-to solution — until it turned out he felt rejected and punished by being made to be away from me. So, if your kids will take to it, that’s great — an hour reading in their rooms (or elsewhere in the house) sounds nice. But it certainly isn’t a necessity for every family and if it doesn’t work for you, you guys aren’t wrong or broken. Your kids might be too old for you to suddenly start imposing an hour alone in their rooms, anyway.

    I have one child who is really good at entertaining herself and another who has always been awful at it, and who usually hates to be alone. (The third is still a toddler so who knows where he will land.) I see being able to keep your own company as a fundamental life skill, so I spend a lot of time making my oldest entertain himself in non-screen-based ways. He loves to read, which is great, but still does not love long unstructured periods of time. That’s okay. He doesn’t have to love it. He does have to learn how to entertain himself and stay busy without me standing over his head, and that means I need to be able to tolerate his inability to tolerate it 😉

    As far as screen time goes, I wonder if your all-or-nothing approach is ultimately unhelpful. It seems like you guys are either all-in on screens, spending hours sucked in, or totally off of them because you’ve had it with how hard it is to transition from screens to real life. We have a different approach to screens — first, we don’t make it a reward for doing non-screen-related activities (i.e. reading) and we also don’t make it a good-behavior reward either. It’s totally neutral. My kids are allowed to play Minecraft for 30 minutes on the computer or my iPad, or they watch TV for the same amount of time. Then after 30 minutes screens are done for the day. YES this has always meant that I don’t get that “break” where as a parent I can check out while my kids zone out, but it also means that they don’t have that behavior hangover that comes when you peel them away from screens after a 3 hour binge. It also means that screens (whether it’s playing games or watching tv or anticipating doing so) don’t rule our lives. That is worth it to me. I think some parents inadvertently set screens and “screen time” up as this larger-than-life force over which they have no control, this ultimate reward that their kids can’t stop thinking about because it’s held up as this huge prize for completing basic activities of daily living, or come to believe that they have no influence in how their children spend their time or what they give their attention to. But screens don’t need to dominate your kids’ lives (or yours) and you also don’t necessarily need to go cold turkey.

    I also wonder if you need to work on increasing your own tolerance for your kids’ boredom. They won’t learn how to entertain themselves if you see it as a problem when they can’t — a problem, of course, that you need to solve.

    Hope this is helpful! Good luck with everything.

    • Reply KGC September 20, 2022 at 9:42 am

      I like the way ‘screens don’t have to dominate’ is explained here, and I think we sort of do this (without me having realized it until now). On the weekends, the kids always get 2 shows right when they wake up – that’s their routine. It varies a little bit later in the day, depending on activities (and later screen time is often dependent on completion of chores) but they always get some screen time every day without question. @thegamereducator on instagram recently had a story about this – that kids like routine and crave it even if there are other fun things to do as alternatives. So I think the idea of having a limited amount of the activity that always occurs without question might address this and be helpful?

    • Reply Taryn September 20, 2022 at 4:00 pm

      I agree with this. My kids (ages 9 and 11) watch 1 hour of TV on Saturday and Sunday when my husband and I enjoy coffee on the porch. And that’s it. Aside from a Sunday football game or a family movie night (rare) that is their “screen time.” They don’t have iPads, phones, video games. It’s just the way it’s been from the time they were little. Are they bored on the weekends sometimes? Of course! My son (11) will read, play piano, or head outside and play (either alone or with neighbors). My daughter (9) loves to read and do art/craft projects. Or bake. They also have regular chores. I think the fact that they experience boredom helps them tremendously. They recently created a bamboo structure outside 100% on their own. They love building forts in the basement. Do they argue and get on each other’s nerves? Yes! Does it make parenting “harder” because we don’t really get a break? Yes. But in the end it’s what works best for our family.

      • Reply Amy September 20, 2022 at 8:20 pm

        Thanks for adding that it does make parenting harder — because yes, it absolutely can. But it is also effort well spent.

        • Reply Amy September 20, 2022 at 8:21 pm

          (Sorry, replying to myself lol) — I also think it makes parenting harder when you have to deal with tantrums and addiction-like behavior post screen time, so pick your poison I guess!

          • Taryn September 21, 2022 at 3:21 pm

            Could not agree more. I have friends tell me all the time that their kids are addicted to screens, beasts when they have to stop, it keeps them from doing regular living activities. One thing my husband and I try and do as much as possible is not model the behavior. We try and stay off our phones as much as possible when we are with them (and if we’re checking the weather, sports, schedule, etc we tell them what we are doing). My husband recently bought a regular Timex watch so he doesn’t need to check his phone for the time. These kids are so impressionable. Plus they have their entire life to be grownups. I want them to stay little as long as possible.

        • Reply Sarah Hart-Unger September 21, 2022 at 6:30 am

          I can see this! Good point both of you.

  • Reply E M D September 20, 2022 at 9:37 am

    Something to think about…I have three kids, twins who are age 13 and an 11 y.o. When the twins were small, my husband and I were chatting with someone who worked as a therapist and had an interest in twins’ social dynamics.

    He pointed out that kids ‘look up’ to their peers for their social cues – so, an oldest or only child is modeling their behavior after their parents. The next one in line is looking to their older sibling, etc.

    So your oldest looked/looks to you for certain social cues. (Not to mention, she is physically older, more mature, able to read, etc.)

    The youngest is looking to her older brother – and boys are often less mature for their physical age, plus often more physical in their actions! So her immediate social model is not…you.

    Obviously there are other factors that come into play here. Their individual nature also determines how they behave. Some people are just quieter than others!!!

    And….we are still somewhat in that phase where ‘quiet weekend’ leads to simmering frustration by Sunday night. Bickering, ‘nothing to do,’ a million requests to do screens…

    Fortunately mine like to read, and have started picking up hobbies that they engage with on their own. (Using a 3D printer, drawing comics, etc.) Formal child care is overkill, yet they still need some supervision and of course, rides to activities.

    I was really happy when school and structured activities picked up again this fall! Even if the scheduling/driving is a huge time-drain for me.

    It will change over time, for sure.

    • Reply Sarah Hart-Unger September 20, 2022 at 4:51 pm

      Fascinating take! Yes if G is looking to C … that would explain a lot actually.

  • Reply Alyssa September 20, 2022 at 9:42 am

    Solidarity! What’s working for us right now….Friday night pizza and game night. Pizza delivered or make pizza (with store bought crust) and then games. I use “games” loosely here because my daughter is 4 years old and sometimes she’s interested and sometimes she is not. Games recently played include one of the following per evening: Candyland, kicking soccer ball in yard, and wrapping a present (because that’s all the energy we had…). Saturday morning is library plus playground (or soccer game if she has one). Sunday morning we have waffles at home and then walk/hike in woods or on greenway with scooter or bike (side note: I live in a small conservative town and it feels like the entire town is closed on Sunday morning for church services, so this time block used to be a struggle for me but this routine seems to work). On Saturday and Sunday afternoons we do quiet time with visual countdown timer. On Sunday afternoons I stretch the quiet time a little longer because I use the time to get ready for the week (write in planner, pay bills, order groceries, household items, etc.).

  • Reply gwinne September 20, 2022 at 9:53 am

    Another thought: can you have a “family meeting” where you discuss this issue with the kids and let them help troubleshoot and brainstorm activities they would like to do? (Even if that list is pre-curated. I recently did this for a vacation. Wrote down everything I thought some combo of people would like….the schedule ended up going exactly the way I thought it would but it gave them some agency)

  • Reply Erin September 20, 2022 at 9:57 am

    I have three (8 – boy, newly 5 – girl, and 1) and I would say my older two are pretty good about independent play. We are fairly rigid about screen time – on the weekends they can watch ~45-90min during one of the baby’s naps, just depends on whether they want to watch a movie or a show. Screen time is on the actual television, not ipads. The 8yo just got a switch so we are newly navigating that. We rarely do more than about an hour at a time (maybe once every 4-6 weeks, or if they are sick), and I think that helps immensely. We also never really had any luck implementing quiet time.

    Anyway, what works for us:
    – our son is sports-obsessed and often just plays basketball/football/baseball outside with neighbor friends (obviously, this is contingent on having same-age kids in your neighborhood and having sports equipment accessible). We are in NC so not quite as hot as FL, but also pretty hot during the summer. He would stay outside all day if we let him! We recently got him a Gabb watch so we can give him a little more freedom.
    – relatedly, my son loves the “baseball guys” “football guys” and “basketball guys” toys. I bet C would love them if he doesn’t already have them!
    – for something chore-adjacent, I will tell them they need to find 5-10 things in the house that are out of place, and put them back where they belong. Reduces clutter, and also they usually end up in a different room (e.g., my 5yo will go put barbies away and then end up playing barbies).
    – my 5yo will often just take her toys (barbies, hatchimals) out on the front/back porch and play by herself or with friends. Something about the change in scenery engrosses her.
    – I made the 5yo a playlist on Amazon music and she’ll turn it on (or “gymnastics workout” which is a great one) and dance or do “gymnastics” in the living room.
    – don’t discount plastic crap toys like Barbies/Barbie dream house, hatchimals, pj masks/other show figures, and the like. these have always been the toys my kids do their best independent play with, despite popular wisdom.
    – we have drawing/writing supplies easily accessible (just notepads, paper, markers, crayons, colored pencils) and the 5yo especially will just sit and doodle. Sometime I will get her started by writing her name in block letters, then she will fill them in with various designs. Relatedly, both the 5yo and 8yo love artforkidshub on youtube – individual drawing lessons!
    – in general, I find if I get them (again, especially the 5yo – the 8yo is starting to want nothing to do with us most of the time) started with something, after about 5-10 minutes, they’ll continue and leave me alone. So I just accept that I can spend a small amount of time up-front to get a chunk where they are occupied.
    – always have music playing. It just reduces my annoyance! I made a giant playlist of all my favorites years back for a birthday party, and now I just continually edit it and it plays basically all the time. Bonus is that my kids have pretty good taste in music (e.g., they love vampire weekend) and we rarely listen to kid music (except for the 5yo playlist mentioned above).

  • Reply Michelle September 20, 2022 at 10:14 am

    I have a 8.5yr old boy and 5yr old boy, and they really only get along with each other for long periods once I make sure they have individual time with me first. Especially my 8.5yr old! Even if it’s just talking a short walk or bike ride where we can talk uninterrupted, it helps so much! Also, I don’t know if it’s all boys, but mine require something physical at least for a hour a day.

  • Reply Diane September 20, 2022 at 11:37 am

    About chores – sometimes what works for us with chores on the weekend is to combine it with something they do want. For examples, they can watch tv while they fold laundry. We give them thirty minutes if we come down to the tv room and nothing is folded, the tv gets turned off and they have to fold half a basket without tv before we turn it back on. The other one is they can listen to audiobooks or favorite podcasts while they clean a room. Same deal – set a timer and if things aren’t appreciably clean after 20 minutes, I turn off the device and they have to clean for 15 minutes before I will turn the story back on. So granted, it is usually the ten year old cleaning while the two littles goof off, which can make her mad and resentful, but I’m hoping that they’ll eventually learn to help their big sister out more.
    I hear you on the weekends being draining rather than restorative sometimes. I think part of it for me is that I want an empty weekend to be a time when I can knock some things off my to-do list and the constant interruption to referee a fight or feed someone or even tie a cape on – that interruption to my time when I’m immersed in something else, even if it’s a good book, can make me so angry and discombobulated. (I guess it might be the same for kids and screen time? They are so immersed that they don’t know how to reset when interrupted?) At least when I’m out on adventures with the kids, I don’t have expectations of being able to concentrate on my own thing.
    Our kids (10, 5, and 3) get very limited screen time because it is so hard to pry them away from it and they are generally grumpy afterwards. I know every kid is different, but it’s rarely worth the trouble for me to let the kids have the screens. Luckily, they’ve also always been really good about entertaining themselves so I don’t often have to offer screen time as an option. Or maybe I’m just good at neglecting them while I do other things? My Husband will work all afternoon in the garden while I’m at work, and when I come home, I’ll ask, “What are the kids up to?” and he’ll say, “I have no idea.” I mean sometimes I do come down to the kitchen after working on a house project and the snack bin has been emptied on the kitchen floor and they are eating chocolate chips right out of the bag. But at least they were quiet for 45 minutes. I have learned to hide the markers from the toddler though…

  • Reply Brooke September 20, 2022 at 11:50 am

    My oldest has ADHD, and there was a season (looking at you, ages 7-10) where we needed to get out of the house daily – like no kidding, we needed a morning and afternoon plan. They needed that simulation. There are seasons/kids who just need that. We’re in Seattle and no one wants to be outside in the winter – cold and rainy. We did a lot of walking around Target and the mall, covered playground, our local airplane museum (we’re members), etc. Leaning into and accepting that, and figuring out a parenting plan that lets both parents have downtime on the weekend while still meetings kids is critical. Good luck!

    • Reply Sarah Hart-Unger September 20, 2022 at 12:44 pm

      Yep we may just be in that zone and the timing of this complaint is totally bc I’m 100% sick of our nasty summer weather and it’s far from over!!!

      I already have two outings planned for next weekend.

    • Reply Amy September 20, 2022 at 8:25 pm

      I’ll second this — I went on above about unstructured time and the importance of boredom, but some kids really do need / thrive on more structure (my oldest is like this — hell, *I* am like this). I think it’s important that kids be given the opportunity to practice being bored and tolerating it, but temperament is real. Not everyone does well with a long day stretched out ahead of them with no structure. It’s okay to go with that. They don’t need it to be unstructured all day.

  • Reply Amanda September 20, 2022 at 11:52 am

    My son is 9 and just started 4th grade and he has gotten better at entertaining himself, but even then not for a whole day. As an only child he has had to learn to play by himself because I don’t want to do Legos or action figures for hours every day. The upside for us is there are a couple other 9 year olds on the street and they all run and play and hang out and I don’t have to organize anything except maybe a snack. I do think a lot of this is age and maturity. It can be so hard when you just want to spend a day at home, because there is so much whining about needing something to do.

  • Reply omdg September 20, 2022 at 12:06 pm

    Agree with Gwinne about dropoff playdates. The older kids should be able to entertain themselves with minimal intervention from you. Even G can probably play with another kid without you being physically in the room the whole time. When we lived in a neighborhood with other kids during COVID, we would literally just send Dylan outside to play, and it was amazing, and now when she has friends over they play in the basement or in the yard or in her room, and literally do not come out for hours. It is amazing. I just ask if kid X wants to play this weekend, and usually the answer is yes. My husband has even become capable of arranging playdates on his own, which… let me tell you, this is so clutch.

    I have to laugh though, the parents of the friends with siblings are always trying to get me to take the siblings as well as the friend. Haha!

    • Reply Sarah Hart-Unger September 20, 2022 at 12:42 pm

      Omg I would NEVER ask for that!! (And I’d be annoyed if someone asked me if the kids weren’t friends w my other kids!)

    • Reply Brooke September 20, 2022 at 12:58 pm

      Playdate math is awesome. 1 kid + 1 kid = 0.2 kids 🙂 They only seem to surface when they are hungry.

      • Reply Irene September 21, 2022 at 11:51 am

        So that’s totally true if only one child is home. But my kids are terrible when one kid has a friend over and the other doesn’t. Even if I try to frame it as special mommy time for the other child. I try to do play dates when the other kid is out of the house but it makes things complicated in our highly scheduled area! What am I doing wrong???

  • Reply Christina September 20, 2022 at 12:43 pm

    Agree about not wanting to be the “cruise director” for the kids!
    I often take the weekends to have an adventure with the kids, so we don’t usually say at home all day.
    My youngest is only 3.5, so she still needs quite a bit of supervision. But when my older kid (10 yo) whines or complains he has nothing to do without screens to entertain him, I respond by telling him that I have a huge list of extra chores for him to do. So, he can either figure something out or I give him extra tasks. He figures something out quickly. 😉

  • Reply felicia doherty September 20, 2022 at 1:13 pm

    We bought an old school CD player and use books on CD from the library!

    And, use an old iPhone with only podcast and audiobook apps (this would work for G, tougher to police with the older ones maybe)

    • Reply engineergreener September 21, 2022 at 3:22 pm

      Have the iPad locked with a code the kids don’t know.

  • Reply Gina September 20, 2022 at 2:00 pm

    Another idea here for, if it feels helpful…my kids LOVE listening to podcasts (current favorites are: Circle Time, Stories Podcast and Melon’s House Party). Most episodes are ~20-30 min and keep their attention well, especially if they have something to do while listening (coloring, legos, etc). Most weekends, we do about an hour of quiet time and they almost always pick listening to a couple podcast episodes during this time – for us, having these on in the background has been a game-changer!

    • Reply Sarah Hart-Unger September 20, 2022 at 2:11 pm

      I need to do more of that!!

    • Reply Amy September 20, 2022 at 8:27 pm

      Yes! Podcasts and audiobooks while playing with legos or dolls have seen us through many winter afternoons.

  • Reply Rebecca September 20, 2022 at 2:50 pm

    I don’t know if someone has already commented this but my son (5) really loves “potions”. I got him a science kit and he just mixes colors and stuff and he knows to put down a towel and he’ll play with that for a couple hours alone while I do house work. My daughter 18 months is still too young for most “sensory bins” but my son will still participate with that as well, we do mostly water and stuff since she tries to eat the flour, rice etc. sensory bins have been my saving Grace because I tend to be cruise ship director but my wild son actually plays better now that he has learned independent play. Also lots of outside time helps- the backyard is fenced so there’s lots of them playing out there while I “sittervise”. I don’t know if you follow busy toddler on Instagram but I think it’s probably helpful for bigger kids too because her kids are yours kids ages now.

  • Reply Erica September 20, 2022 at 3:22 pm

    I think quiet time is definitely worth a try, but it might take some patience. I have a newly-5 year old boy (very, very energetic and doesn’t really enjoy reading to himself yet) and over several months I’ve worked him up to 45-60 minutes of quiet time on a typical weekend day.

    The key, I think, is a solid schedule. After lunch, he plays games on the iPad for about 30 minutes while his sister goes down for her nap. Then he has an adapted version of his old pre-nap ritual: bathroom, changing clothes if he’s wearing something dirty (or just feels like it), amassing stuffed animals on his bed, reading a story together. Then he has quiet time.

    Oh, and there’s a second key – it doesn’t have to actually be quiet, just in his room and by himself (and no iPad). Sometimes he sits and looks at books. Occasionally he falls asleep. Most often, he plays with his remote control car or does “science experiments” with his toys or plays a board game by himself. As long as he isn’t shouting or breaking things, I don’t care.

  • Reply Megan September 20, 2022 at 5:25 pm

    I feel you! I have 11 yo girl and 5 yo girl who are great at occupying themselves and playing. The 5 yo has a playroom with a million Our Generation and Barbies and can play for a while. My 8 yo son is horrible at entertaining himself on demand (it happens at times but not when I tell him to so I do try and pay attn and praise him for that) and the main reason we rarely spend an entire day at home. I find playdates and parks are my go-to and agree on the idea of “kid wants to play with your child this weekend, is s/he available and let me know preference on location – our house works.” to see if kids can get exported out of the house! My husband gives me a hard time bc I like to make plans but it is often based on the fact that screen-free relaxation time at home is hard to come by!

  • Reply Sara September 20, 2022 at 7:02 pm

    Oh, I need to catch up on all the comments! If we are home, we do at least one hour of quiet time after lunch on weekends. I really like Epic for the Read to Me books (G would love it, I think!) and there are a lot of digital books, too. The videos are fun, but educational! My younger one usually does legos with an audio book (we download them via Libby) and the older one usually reads.

    For chores, my 6 and 8 year old boys do three things for their weekly allowance: pick up the floor in their rooms and out toys/books away, put away clothes (from the laundry), and vacuum (they use a stick vacuum).

    I actually got really mad this weekend when they put up a fight about chores, but they ended up doing it and everything turned out ok. I think setting the expectation that this is the routine helps. We got pushback about quiet time at first, but things got much better after a while! Start with shorter periods of time (like 5-10 min) vs hoping for a long stretch of time 🙂

  • Reply Alison September 20, 2022 at 7:18 pm

    My kids are similar ages (10, 9, 8, 5 and 1.5) and neighbor friends are the key to hanging at home on the weekends for us! A kid or two will ring the doorbell and either draw a few of our kids outside, to their house or into our basement and in any scenario it changes the dynamic enough that even those not actively playing with the neighbor generally aren’t fighting. They tend to move from house to house to collect more friends and find new things to do. It sounds like this is not at all the culture of your neighborhood but worth working toward – maybe see if A can find one similar-age girl within a block or two and give it a try.

  • Reply Jen September 20, 2022 at 9:42 pm

    I have no advice, but I do have a word of hope. My kids are 16 and 12, and I now look forward to weekends. They sleep in! They make their own breakfasts! They love relaxing! My son has ADHD, and the toddler/elementary weekends were brutal with him. It’s totally different now.

    • Reply Sarah Hart-Unger September 21, 2022 at 6:31 am

      Tincture of time! Well if nothing else, gives me hope!

  • Reply Nicole September 20, 2022 at 10:30 pm

    I haven’t read all the comments, but wanted to chime in about Epic. I liked the concept of the “read to me” books, but my now 4.5 year old has had some struggles navigating the app since I shared it with him maybe a year or so ago. We’ve only used it on road trips, but I was regularly having to listen to whining and help him get in/out of the books. I’ve had a little better luck with Vooks – they may not emphasize the reading as much as Epic, but they are videos of actual books,so I feel good about that. That app is a little easier for my kiddo to navigate because there’s no page turning, etc. We’ve only done podcasts/audiobooks in the car as well, as we don’t have a way for him to play them in the house or really a designated time for it.

  • Reply Sara B. September 21, 2022 at 12:33 am

    My couple quick audiobook tips –
    1. In addition to Libby, see if your library also does Hoopla for more audiobook choices. Hoopla also has some read-along books for when you are ok with screen-based reading – like if you want G to “read” when the other kids are actually reading.
    2. My kids love Amazon storytime if you have an Echo. (Alexa, open Amazon storytime.) Apple Music and Spotify both have Disney audio stories with some vocals from the movies – I think they are called “Disney Storyteller” stories.
    3. This one might be a little far-reaching, but would your older kids record audiobooks for G? Gives them something to do and her something to listen to later. My older kiddo did this and they both loved it.

  • Reply Sophie September 21, 2022 at 1:24 am

    I have exactly the same issues (especially for my 5 year old, my 1 yo is too young), but one distinction I learned with my 5yo:
    Screen time as watched on a TV does not have the same negative effects in terms of behaviour afterwards in comparison to iPads. There is something about the iPads which are HIGHLY addictive for her, whereas watching a TV show or movie on the TV is fine. I believe it is the addictive element of the iPads that turns them so feral afterwards. So as a compromise perhaps you could try a movie each weekend afternoon to watch on TV instead of a completely screen free time? The movie could also serve as downtime for everyone (including you!). Just an idea.
    Good luck 🙂

  • Reply Debra September 21, 2022 at 2:26 am

    First time commentator, long time reader/listener. I’m curious–why no crafts? I’m a solo mom to a 7 year old girl, so the situation is different, but my daughter LOVES crafting. There are a lot of self-contained craft kits–sticky gem kits, perler beads, jewelry making kits, kiwi crates, painting, Dollar Tree wooden crafts that they can paint, especially for fall, card making for upcoming birthdays, etc. My daughter’s hugely into horseback riding, so she’ll make elaborate jumps out of magnatiles and set up a pretend horse obstacle course. She sometimes makes her own clothes out of craft material and/or plays dress up in my old dance costumes and choreographs routines. We often play store–she converts a big box into a shop and selects items and we practice learning what things cost and how to make change. She also loves the sticker by number books–those can keep her busy for days! My daughter also loves looking through pinterest and finding her own crafts that we can do together. We don’t have an ipad. She does watch tv and movies, but she doesn’t play any video games or ipad games at home. She has to do too much learning on an ipad at school, (which I hate) so I don’t want that at home. With movies, she gets into the character, we talk about motivation, why a character changes over time…so it’s not passive viewing. As a solo mom/academic, it’s not always easy to find the time/energy, and she’s very active, so I’m always looking for things we can both do together and she can do on her own! By the way, love your podcasts, but would also love to see more about how solo moms balance work/parenting. It’s not easy, especially when you can’t afford to outsource and you don’t have a partner to balance it out! I’m a solo mom by choice, but it’s still not easy!

    • Reply Sarah Hart-Unger September 21, 2022 at 6:29 am

      Maybe I can get my sister on again 🙂 or another person with older/more kids.

      It’s not that in anti craft but I don’t relish the idea of setting up an elaborate step by step thing to follow. Plus the crafts that work for A don’t necessarily for G. That said maybe I need to be more open ended about it!

      • Reply Amy September 21, 2022 at 8:58 am

        I wonder if you can just have a craft area somewhere in the house. I have a table in my basement next to an ikea shelving set, and we have a ton of crap in it that’s just random craft supplies. My 8yo daughter creates things all the time over there (she just made a telescope out of a paper towel roll, some construction paper, tape, beads, etc). I’m also not about to set up an elaborate step-by-step project but this allows all of my kids to just drop in and create something and then move on after a while.

        • Reply Sarah Hart-Unger September 21, 2022 at 9:55 am

          I probably can now! For years we couldn’t risk G just kind of getting into it and wrecking it but I think she’d be more likely to use it to make things as well. Good point. Things change so fast and sometimes it’s hard to keep up!

    • Reply Kristen September 21, 2022 at 8:20 am

      Hi Debra! Another solo parent by choice to one daughter here. Wanted to say hi 🙂

      • Reply Nikki September 22, 2022 at 6:23 pm

        So many great comments, I’m practically taking notes because we have similar struggles. Wanted to add here that Target has great EASY crafts. I’m not crafty at all and just keep a stash of the easiest crafts I can find for my 4.5 & 6 year old (thinking – putting stickers on a frame type stuff). They also like giant coloring sheets we tape to the table and work on over the course of a weekend. Lakeshore learning has sewing crafts that my six year old can do on her own. Scratch paper bought me a ton of time recently – three nights in a row they worked on a little scratch paper Halloween kit I randomly grabbed at whole foods long enough for me to get my toddler fully to bed. Will definitely be buying more of that! My kids also have exponentially worse behavior after the ipad so when I’m feeling proactive, that’s some of the stuff that helps. We have better weather and lots of same age neighbors so easier in general for us to walk outside and scooter and bike with friends, which helps a lot.

  • Reply Cate September 21, 2022 at 3:14 am

    Hi, I haven’t read all the previous comments so hope this isn’t repetition… but one thing that helped when my two were that age was moving screen time to before meals. They played better (not perfectly!) when just fed, then screen time came to the rescue when they were becoming more tired and hungry. And it was a billion times easier to turn the screens off because “tea’s ready!” (dinner in the US?!) than for any other reason. Good luck!!

  • Reply Weekend Wrinkles – Not a Wasted Word September 21, 2022 at 5:16 am

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  • Reply Irene September 21, 2022 at 9:06 am

    Can I just say I so appreciate hearing other people struggle with the same thing? I have always been a parent that like to play with my kids, and during the pandemic we were so isolated I felt like I was their primary playmate and in some ways it wasn’t good. It definitely wasn’t sustainable! I am actively working on this now. My oldest is incredibly extroverted and hates being alone unless she’s reading. I can so relate to the dynamic you describe between C and G – they can’t get along but they won’t be apart! We have chosen to really work on that actively because the definitely CAN play well and then everyone is so so happy. We have actually worked with a therapist on this and the biggest advice is to catch them doing well and praise it. So after 5 minutes if playing well we come in and say “look at this! You came up with a great game! You are having so much fun playing together! Amazing!” Things like that. It’s helping I think. Also there are times the cooperative play goes better, like first thing in the morning Sunday morning, so we try to make it happen then. But I’m terrible about making them do chores beyond the most minimal putting their toys away and clothes in the hamper. I need to work on that.

  • Reply Meghan Oaks September 21, 2022 at 12:12 pm

    Learning to play independently is definitely a skill! Not all kids are born with it and it has to be learned, that’s for sure. Unfortunately, I don’t have any advice other than what we’ve done: offered open ended toys that don’t ‘do’ anything on their own (e.g. no light up toys, and I know how holy-than-thou that can sound), and really restraining ourselves (most of the time) when we ‘play’ with them, which is not often. I try to let them lead.

    As for audio books – have you heard of a yoto player? Each of my daughters have one and they love it. Listen to stories every single night as they go to bed. I swear it’s a game changer. Plus the cards make good ‘stocking stuffers’ for the holidays.

    • Reply Sarah Hart-Unger September 21, 2022 at 12:15 pm

      sounds like it would be super cool for g!

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